The Thunderbolts finally enter the fray of “Siege” in this week’s issue, with a secret mission for Norman Osborn: steal the Spear of Odin from Asgard’s armory. Jeff Parker is clever in using this mission to tie into “Siege” since it plays to the group’s strengths and doesn’t simply launch them into the huge brawl. Parker also uses this mission as a means to explore the dysfunctional group dynamic of late with the Ghost AWOL and the team’s leader, Scourge, having shot Headsman in the back of the head under mind control.
This issue’s greatest strength is also its most annoying weakness: the banter between the members of the Thunderbolts. In limited bursts, these griping, whiny ‘badasses’ bitching at one another is very entertaining. Scourge’s over-the-top militaristic approach that makes him view his teammates as lowly criminals, ignoring his own actions is interesting when put up against Paladin’s more pragmatic ‘let’s do this and get paid’ attitude, but, over the course of the issue, their constant need to argue becomes grating. Parker simply goes back to the same well a few times too many in this issue.
He does insert some nice action moments like Hogun the Grim’s use of a bow or an Asgardian discovering the team in the armory and taking on Mister X, but the ratio of fighting to talking is a little out of balance since the dialogue gets progressively annoying as the issue progresses and Miguel Sepulveda’s talents are brought to the forefront during the few bits of action we’re given. Like a lot of superhero artists, he works best with characters in motion and them simply walking around the armory doesn’t quite get the job done.
Sepulveda’s strongest art in this issue isn’t of two characters fighting, it’s of Asgard itself. If you thought Olivier Coipel does stunning drawings of the floating city, Sepulveda’s initial rendering of it will blow you away. He delivers a strong level of detail and infuses it with a sense of majesty. Frank Martin’s colors on that image make it stand out as he uses a lot of subtle grays to give the stone and rocks an extra level of texture and reality. Inside the armory, the two manage to create a sense of beauty and age in the weapons and treasures found there.
The two page spread early in the issue where Osborn briefs the team on their mission is one of the pair’s artistic missteps, as they depict the events of “Siege” in the background using a less detailed art style including the Thunderbolts’ plane in faded colors, and the Spear of Odin in the foreground with regular colors. However, neither of those objects draw enough focus to warrant the different colors or placement, while the flashback images could be much stronger and show off both Sepulveda and Martin’s skills greater. In the issue, the two pages look a muddled mess and don’t deliver as effectively as the rest of the art.
While a clever idea fuels this initial “Siege” tie-in issue and manages to play to the Thunderbolts concept well, too much time is spent on these unlikable characters talking as the vast majority of the issue is spent that way. A small taste of their antagonistic banter is great, but Jeff Parker pushes it too far here and, by the end, it’s simply annoying.